Shabbos 63 Dangerous dogs
On this daf, Rabbi Aba brings the ruling of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, a leading first generation Amora, that one who keeps an “evil” dog in his house keeps kindness away from his house.
Rashi explains that because of the dangerous dog, poor people will be afraid to approach and ask for money.
The Gemara in Bava Batra( 7b) makes a similar point regarding a בית שער (courtyard gate), saying that having a locked gate to one’s courtyard is also problematic for the same reason .
In Bava Kama( 46a) , the Gemora also states that one who keeps a dangerous dog in one’s house transgresses the prohibition of לא תשים דמים בביתך ( do not place blood in your house ), a prohibition against having perilous items or unguarded patios etc.
There is much discussion as to what is considered an “evil” dog, but both here and in the sugya in Bava Kama, a strong emphasis is placed on the danger scary dogs poise to pregnant women, who might be so terrified by it that they miscarry, chalila.
I was learning this Gemara with my 8 year old son, Noam, last night , and he reminded me about how when Julie was pregnant with him (and no, he didn’t know what was happening when he was in her womb..), the gate of our property fell ont her ,and although she was uninjured Boruch Hashem , she went to the hospital just to be sure that the fright had not endangered the pregnancy.
It turned out that he was indeed in distress, to the point that she almost had to have an emergency caesarean, many weeks too early .
I was far away in the Kruger park area at the time with a group of clients, it was night ,and there was no way to get back home , other than a 7 hour drive over treacherous mountain passes in the dark, something we decided was a bad idea, and my ability to be there added to the stress .
Boruch Hashem, he calmed down and all was fine- yet this personal experience made me extra sensitive to this issue , and in the daf today , a tragic story is told which didn’t end so well.
A pregnant woman went to a neighbor, as was the norm at the time for those who couldn’t afford their own oven , to use his oven to bake bread.
He had a dangerous dog, that barked so loudly at her that she miscarried. Unaware of what happened, but seeing she was afraid, the man tried to calm her down, saying that the dog was harmless and had its most dangerous teeth removed and claws cut.
Suffice to say, the woman told him she wanted nothing from him and it was already too late.
Chazal have various things to say about dogs, some very positive, some rather negative , and obviously things depend a lot on the type and nature of the dog, how it is constrained, and other circumstances- when needed for security reasons , that is also a factor.
One thing, however, is clear to me from experience, and that is that in many places, people are simply unaware or totally ambivalent about the level of fear and stress that visitors get from their more aggressive 4 legged friends , and often get extremely defensive about it.
I remember as a child growing up in crime infested Johannesburg the terror I experienced every time I walked passed a house with a Rottweiler as it attacked the gate and made out as if it was about to charge me- on some occasions, large dogs actually jumped over those towering Joburg walls and though most were more bark than bite , I was more terrified of them than of the criminals .
And I was a kid who absolutely loved dogs and had 3 of my own!
A Jewish home is supposed to be an open home, where visitors, particularly the poor , feel welcome and at ease , and anything that causes it to be the opposite, other than valid security concerns, needs to be very carefully considered .